A human smuggling investigation has been launched after Houston police found more than 90 people huddled in two rooms of a two-story house. Police had gone to the house Thursday night to search it after receiving a tip about a kidnapping, CNN reports. "It was a big surprise when we got in the house and saw what we saw," said Assistant Chief Daryn Edwards. All but five of the people—all adults—are men, he said, and none was tied up. They were given rapid coronavirus tests after several said they couldn't taste or smell, possible symptoms of COVID-19. As of Friday night, five people had tested positive, per KTRK. The people were being kept in the house for the early stages of the investigation; police were trying to figure who they are. The family that owns the house said it was rented out, per KHOU.
Homeland Security will lead the smuggling investigation. "This is definitely more of a smuggling thing and not a trafficking thing," Edwards said. The people were kept in "deplorable conditions," another assistant chief said. "They can't stand. They had to ask permission to go to the restroom," Patricia Cantu said. "Some of them hadn’t eaten in three days and haven't had water." They were wearing only underwear, she said. Neighbors began taking clothes to the house. A KHOU reporter tweeted that one neighbor said: "I've brought them T-shirts, soups, tortillas, pants. Everything extra I had at home." Cantu didn't want to discuss whether the people are in the US illegally "because that was not the main issue," she said. "It's heartbreaking to see people treated that way." (Read more human smuggling stories.)